What do goldfish, four abstract scrawls and an obscene hand gesture have in common? They are all variations of the internet company AOL's new corporate logo as it prepares to split from Time Warner.
Time Warner's merger with AOL in 2000 has come to be seen as one of the most ill-advised deals in recent history. The divorce has been protracted and messy, but the two will finally separate on 10 December, when AOL shares start trading independently in New York. To celebrate, one of the original internet giants is changing its image to help revive its fortunes. It is overhauling the business in the next few months and will shed 2,500 jobs, or one-third of its staff.
Gone is "AOL" in capital letters and a blue triangle. In comes "Aol." (don't forget the full stop) and a web portal "committed to creating the world's most simple and stimulating content and online experiences". The new typeface, set against a series of images, is described as "one consistent logo with countless ways to reveal". It was designed by Wolff Olins, the agency that came up with the much-derided logo for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Tim Armstrong, chairman and chief executive of AOL, said the branding was "uniquely dynamic", while his marketing team added: "The identity ... is a platform for expression and creativity reflecting the content, products and services Aol offers."
The "Aol-dot" logo will be consistent but is used with varying backgrounds and animations, including graffiti-style scrawls, a goldfish and a hand gesture often seen at rock concerts. AOL would do well to avoid using the latter in Italy, where it is an insult, indicating a man whose wife has been unfaithful.